Fukushima one year on: Poor planning hampered Fukushima response

Fukushima in review: A complex disaster, a disastrous response

From Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 

One year after an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011, an independent investigation panel has highlighted the country’s failures in disaster planning and crisis management for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The article shows that agencies were thoroughly unprepared for the cascading nuclear disaster, following a tsunami that should have been anticipated.

The Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation established an independent investigation panel to review how key actors responded during the disaster. According to the investigation, the tsunami could and should have been anticipated. Many human errors were made at Fukushima, illustrating the dangers of building multiple nuclear reactor units close together. A public myth of “absolute safety,” nurtured by nuclear power proponents over decades, contributed to the lack of adequate preparation. Even in the technologically advanced country of Japan, the government and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, were astonishingly unprepared, and this grave oversight will affect the Japanese people for decades. The authors conclude. “Ultimately, the final outcome of studies of Fukushima Daiichi should be an intense effort to build up the resilience of the country, its organizations, and its people, so future disaster can be averted or responded to effectively.”

Abstract

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The emerging crisis at the plant was complex, and, to make matters worse, it was exacerbated by communication gaps between the government and the nuclear industry. An independent investigation panel, established by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, reviewed how the government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), and other relevant actors responded. In this article, the panel’s program director writes about their findings and how these players were thoroughly unprepared on almost every level for the cascading nuclear disaster. This lack of preparation was caused, in part, by a public myth of “absolute safety” that nuclear power proponents had nurtured over decades and was aggravated by dysfunction within and between government agencies and Tepco, particularly in regard to political leadership and crisis management. The investigation also found that the tsunami that began the nuclear disaster could and should have been anticipated and that ambiguity about the roles of public and private institutions in such a crisis was a factor in the poor response at Fukushima.

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Article details
Funabashi, Y., & Kitazawa, K. (2012). Fukushima in review: A complex disaster, a disastrous response Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68 (2), 9-21 DOI: 10.1177/0096340212440359

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